Ed was not a writer. He was a visionary, a talker, and a persuader, but not a pen-to-paper man. Perhaps he thought too quickly; perhaps he didn’t have the patience to make hardcopy. Anyway, until Ed fell ill, one of my jobs over the last 20 years for the Callahan Report was to render into prose the orations that flowed from Ed’s tongue. It was an honor and a privilege; it was an eye-opener.
No one could separate Ed the credit union leader from Ed the football coach and Catholic school leader; you could as easily take the flour out of the dough. Ed grew up in a steel mill city – Youngstown, Ohio – where boys smashed each other with fierce resolve on the football field. Competition was the heart that pumped Ed’s blood. He grew up frugal, hardworking, determined. He played football at Marquette. Realizing what football had done for him, he was gripped by the desire to have it do for others, and so he became a coach, the beginning of a lifetime of teaching and of urging his own vision of progress upon anyone who would listen.
Ed’s monthly contributions to the Callahan Report were often like half-time pep talks. He saw what the future could be and he laid it out for you. But he was the coach and you were the players, so it was up to you to get the work done, and it was often very hard work indeed. It usually meant struggle against people or forces that were working to make or keep you small. It usually meant sacrifice, to accept pain in the short run for success in the long run. Who can say that he was wrong?
Ed didn’t like the soft, the easy, the accommodating. What he did like was families like his – families of average Americans that put in a hard day’s work and didn’t cozy to the notion that greedy people might charge more for services than they should have. He liked nothing more than such families banding together to form cooperatives and then charging themselves only as much as those services really cost. That, to Ed, was a big part of the American Dream.
Ed and the Four Cs
You could never take the coach out of Ed. Nor could you take out two other Cs. These were Competition and Cooperation. Some people see them as antithetical, but Ed saw them as two sides of one coin. He believed competition ushered up the best ideas and efforts. He believed that cooperation was the way a whole society moves forward to a better life. He saw them like two strands of a braid, moving together, each reinforcing the other.
There was a fourth C that Ed talked about a lot: Change. For a man out of a traditional background it may have seemed strange but Ed could preach change like a fire-and-brimstone rouser. Embrace change, he’d say: Have it, breathe it, make it yourself. Get with change, or be left in the dust.
Ed often talked about waves. Get in position he’d say. Ride the crest of a wave of change so you move with its energy; don’t be caught with your heels in the sand when the change comes or it’s smash you down. Ed was a wave himself. When he entered a room, you knew something was different.
In the 1980s, Ed entered the room, call it the locker room, of American credit unions. He found a bunch of well-meaning, hard-working, little financial services institutions helping factory workers, telephone linemen, teachers, airline employees and the like. He gave them his half-time pep talk. He told them they could be better than they thought they could be. He told them they could cooperate to make the strongest savings insurance fund in America. He told them that if they embraced deregulation, if they both competed and cooperated, they could go out in the second half and do truly amazing things, be David to banks’ Goliath, pull off an upset. Those credit unions went out from the locker room into the stadium and the rest is history.
Ed is now pacing the sidelines. Watching. Watching like a good and happy coach.